A431 toll road
In February 2014 a landslip on the A431 between Bristol and Bath opened cracks in the road and forced a 14 mile diversion. It was tricky to repair; the council estimated it would be closed till the end of the year, and that a temporary bypass would cost £1.6M and take 16 weeks to build.
So in August local businessman, Mike Watts, took matters into his own hands and built a diversion a few hundred yards up the hillside. It took three men ten days, and £150,000; plus a further £1,000 per day to operate. So long as the council don’t speed up, £2 per car should pay for it.
It’s the first new toll road in Britain since the M6 bypass, and the first privately built one for at least a hundred years.
We need more. Let’s replace the “free” tarmac we currently overuse with correctly priced alternatives. Imagine the pollution that could prevent.
Heparin prophylaxis in pregnancy
The TIPPS trial, published online in The Lancet this week (click here), shows that among high risk women, heparin thrombo-prophylaxis does not reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes, and increases rates of bleeding. The researchers did a great job, and their findings will protect many women from these toxic drugs. In passing they also reminded us of the importance of trial registration.
Did unregistered trials get it wrong?
Figure 3 (above) shows the results of all seven heparin thrombo-prophylaxis trials to date. The top four, Rey, Gris 2010, Gris 2011, and Mello, were unregistered and all showed an implausibly large beneficial effect. The bottom three, Martinelli, De Vries, and Roger, (Roger = TIPPS) were registered in advance so the researchers could not stop early, decide not to publish, or alter their primary outcome, without someone noticing. None showed a benefit.
The TIPPS authors half suggest that the truth lies somewhere between the two groups, namely the “combined (random effects)” relative risk line at the bottom of the figure. I doubt it! More likely the top four trials got their false positive results by repeatedly peeking at their data, selective choice of endpoints or selective publication. The bottom three show the truth.
TIPPS researchers also silently altered sample size
It seems churlish after all that, to question the TIPPS trial methods, but “needs must”. In the published paper the authors claim to have “aimed for a sample size of 284”. Recruitment ran from 28 Feb 2000 to 14 Sept 2012 and the trial was first registered with Clinicaltrials.gov (click here) on 29 May 2009. Between then and 23 April 2013 the Clinicaltrials.gov archives (click here – variable 27) recorded anticipated recruitment of 385 – that’s 101 more than they claimed in the paper! This was altered to 284 on 23 April 2013, and changed again to the actual recruitment number of 292 on 16 May 2013. None of this is mentioned in the published paper. Tut tut!
The TIPPS results were negative, so perhaps this doesn’t matter. Presumably the authors stopped early because they ran out of money, rather than because they had peeked at the data and discovered a nominally significant result. But imagine if TIPPS had been positive. Readers would have assumed that they had cheated.
The third German river
Unlike the Rhine and Elbe, the Weser can be canoed from its origin. It starts not as a tiny stream, high in the hills, but fully formed at the junction of the rivers Werra and Fulda at Hann. Munden. The sea at Bremerhaven is 450km away, but the lower sections, below the junction with the Mittleland canal at Minden, have much heavy shipping – scary.
The section from Hann. Munden to Hameln, the home of the Pied Piper, has no locks, plenty of campsites and perhaps two barges and a few tourist boats a day. It is fast flowing – five easy days paddle – and about a days driving from Dover. I used the Hann. Munden – Cuxhaven Radwander-karte (click here) .
0 km – Launch from the car park on the island at the junction of the Werra and Fulda at Hann. Munden, or from the campsite on the Fulda island 100 yards upstream. http://www.fahrrad-kanu-touren-weser.de/
Or launch into the Fulda above the lock and paddle to the right of the island. The weir, with its hydro-electric power station right, has a canoe shoot left.
Good landing stage/launch spot just below the last Fulda lock by the campsite.
0.5 km – road bridge B3/B80
5 km – Hilwartshausen Abbey left
5.5 km – gravel pits right
11 km – ferry. Reinhards-hagen left. The small village of Hemeln right is not the home of the Pied Piper. That’s at 133 km.
Statue of the legendary giantess Brama on the left bank downstream of the town.
Wesercamping Hemeln http://www.wesercamping.de/ The main site is set back from the river but they allow camping on the bank.
17 Km – Glashutte. Youth campsite right
19 Km – River Nieme joins right. Bursfelde Abbey right
22 km – Weisse-hutte camping left
25 Km – Ferry. Oedelsheim right.
25.5 km – Camping right. http://www.campen-am-fluss.de/ Lovely site. Kanu Shumacher trips launch from here.
28 km – Camping left
29 km- Bridge. Gieselwerder left
33 Km – Ferry. Lippoldsberg right
34 km – Bodenfelde right.
35 km – Wahmbeck ferry
Look out for this structure on the left, just before Bad Karlshafen bridge .
It filters the local mineral water through a network of twigs, creating a briny vapour which is supposed to have health giving properties. Probably does as much good as most alternative therapy. At least if you’re sitting next to it, no-one’s operating on you, or filling you with harmful drugs.
43 km – bridge. Bad Karlshafen left.
Camping below bridge on right. http://www.campingplatz-bad-karlshafen.de/
The harbour and locks connecting the Diemel navigation to the Weser are now disused.
44 km – Diemel river joins left
46 km – ferry. Herstelle left. Wurgassen right
48 km – road bridge. L763
50 km – Wurgassen nuclear power plant right
Built in 1968, with an output of 640MW, Wurgassen was one of Germany’s first commercial nuclear power stations. It was shut down in 1995 because cracks had been detected in the steel reactor container. Precautionary, there had been no leak. It is currently being dismantled.
52 km – Beverungen boat club left allows camping. Excellent facilities.
There is also a campsite on the right bank opposite, albeit set back from the river bank
53 km – road bridge. Beverungen left
Honesty book exchange in centre of town. Take one leave one.
57 km – railway bridge
25 miles – ferry. Wehreden left
Schloss Furstenberg right bank at the end of a straight reach. Famous for porcelain. Look how the cliffs have wooded over in the last 100 years.
63 Km – railway bridge. River Nethe enters left just downstream
Camping right Wesercamping Hoxter
27.5 miles – bridge. Hoxter left
28.5 miles railway bridge. Schloss Corvey left immediately after the bridge, previously a Bendictine monastery, and now a UNESCO world heritage site, is hardly visible from the river. Camping left in the castle grounds (click here)
73 Km – bridge. Luchtringen right
80 km – Holzminden bridge. Camping left before bridge. Holzminden right
The old harbour right just before the bridge. Landing spot. Youth hostel adjacent.
81 km – Holzminden by pass bridge
91 km – Weserbergland camping left http://www.weserbergland-camping.de/ Heisen left. A very scenic village.
93 km – Eversteiner castle left. Allegedly the home of Cinderella’s prince. Hmm? Ferry. Polle left. Campingplatz Weserterrassen left http://www.weserterras
94 Km – Brevorde left
97 km – Solar Ferry. Grave left.
99 km – Dolme right. Steinmuhle cliffs left
102 km – Pegestorf left. The harbour is long disused, and the campsite marked on the map on the left bank just downstream didn’t exist in May 2014. But no worries – two lovely sites on the right bank soon after Rühle.
103 km – Ruhle right Click here for the cemetery
104 km – Campingplatz Rühler Schweiz right. http://www.brader-ruehler-schweiz.de/campingplatz-ferienwohnung-bodenwerder.htm
106 km – Campingplatz Himmelspforte right. http://www.camping-weserbergland.de/
109 km – Bridge. Bodenwerder left.
109.5 km – Bodenwerder railway bridge
110 km – Bodenwerder bypass bridge
114 km – bridge. Daspe right. Hehlen left.
118 km – Ferry. Hajen right
120 – Ferry. Grohnde left
122 km – Latferde right.
123 km – Grohnde nuclear power plant left.
This beautiful 1430MW pressurised water reactor, built in 1984, and operated by EoN, runs on both normal uranium and reprocessed MOX fuel from Britain and France, making it one of the most efficient in the world; eight times it has produced more electricity in a year than any other nuclear power station.
In a panic after the Fukushima nuclear leak in 2011 the Germans decided to phase out all nuclear power by 2022, and unless someone sees sense, Grohnde will go.
124.5 km – bridge. Emmerthal left. Hagenohsen right
125 – railway bridge
126 km – Tundern windmill set back from the river right
127 km – Ferry. Ohr left
132 km – camping right
133 km – bridge Hameln right. Home of the pied piper
134 km – weir. Lock left. Island. Canoe shoot. Weir. Bridge. Island. Lock. Weir. Hydroelectric power station.
The main road bridge in Hameln crosses the weir
D. M. Thomas, author of The White Hotel, the best-selling erotic novel about Freudian psychoanalysis and the holocaust, has had a complicated love life.
Soon after marrying his first wife Maureen he got a job at a teacher training college and started seducing his students. One of them, having became a teacher herself, wanted a child. Denise would have lost her job if she’d become a single parent, so Thomas divorced Maureen and married her. He claimed it was a temporary marriage of convenience, and for a period divided his time between the two women. Eventually Maureen remarried and Thomas went through with his plan, and divorced Denise, but he never quite ended the relationship.
After the publication of The White Hotel in 1981, Thomas was rich and famous. He ran erotic writing courses, and had more affairs. Eventually Denise got cancer and when they looked into what provision they had made for their son they discovered the divorce papers had never been properly filed. They were still married, and remained so, till Denise died in 1998. The following year he married the poetry therapist Victoria Field, and in 2005 moved on to wife number four, Angela Embree.
Does knowing all that help us understand this poem? I’ve no idea, but the final three lines are good.
My soon-to-be fourth wife
is preparing for our first barbecue,
while my third wife
is taking out and packing books
she’d interwoven with mine
in alphabetical order.
Why is there always so much confusion?
My fourth wife is saying she brought twelve steak knives
from Canada, but now there are only nine.
I was hoping a certain poetry book
was mine, not my third wife’s. I think
the barbecue tongs we will be using
are really hers.
I wish my third wife could stay for the barbecue
but my fourth wife would object,
and maybe my third wife would too.
I wish my first wife’s second husband
would let her come to the barbecue,
and bring himself. My fourth wife
would be fine with that. Why are people
so unreasonable? I wish my second wife
wasn’t dead, but could come too.
But then she wouldn’t be happy with my third wife,
and my first wife not happy with my second.
I know my first wife would like my fourth wife.
Many hands make light work,
and I’m hopeless at this kind of thing –
getting the charcoal to light and
cooking chops, sausages and stuff.
by DM Thomas. From Flight & Smoke
By Thomas Hardy
Published in Wessex Poems and Other Verses in 1898, this was probably written when Hardy was in his mid 50’s. Tess of the d’Urbervilles was selling like hot cakes, he was daringly writing about sex in Jude the Obscure, and flirting with society ladies. But he was feeling his years.
Fifteen or so years later the widowed Hardy would marry his secretary Florence Dugdale, 39 years his junior. He was still a player.
I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, “Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!”
For then, I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.
Leigh barrier to Allington lock
Twenty miles gentle paddling spiced up by Environment Agency canoe shoots. The railway follows the valley most of the way so getting back to the top is easy, and there’s excellent wild camping at Oakweir lock, Stoneham lock and Barming bridge. I dunked my camera so the pictures below are either cribbed from the web (forgive me), or credit Alan or Pete.
0 miles – Leigh flood barrier. Built in 1982 to protect Tonbridge, it wasn’t adequate in 2013, and may need to be raised soon.
It is on the new cut, now the main channel. No easy access. Better to launch in Tonbridge and paddle up to the barrier.
0.5 mile – old stream joins right.
1 mile – Lucifer footbridge. Barden Park right.
1.2 miles – railway bridge.
River divides round Tonbridge sports-ground.
|Left channel footbridge 1 mile.
Slipway left 1.5 miles.
|Alternative right channel. Allotments right
Boatyard right.1.4 miles – footbridge.
Botany stream leaves right over weir.
1.5 miles New Wharfe Road bridge
1.6 miles – channels merge
1.8 miles – Town Bridge
2 miles – Town lock right. Sluice gate. Canoe pass. Weir. Millstream leaves left
2.5 miles – Cannon Lane bridge. Access left below bridge.
2.8 miles – Botany stream rejoins right
3 miles – Gravel conveyor bridge
3.5 miles Eldridge’s lock left. Sluice. Canoe shoot right. In two sections.
4.5 miles – Porters lock. Sluice gates right. Canoe shoot. Channel leading to lock left
5 miles – Hartlake bridge.
Memorial to 30 hop pickers who drowned here 1853 when an earlier bridge collapsed in flood. Access below bridge.
5.25 miles – footbridge
6 miles – East lock right.
Canoe shoot middle.
Sluice gates left.
6.25 miles – Ford Green footbridge
7 miles – Oak weir lock Right
Canoe pass middle
Camping allowed on the island. No facilities.
7.25 miles – Stilstead bridge
7.75 miles – River Bourne joins left. Footbridge.
Hop Farm Family Park right. Many attractions. If that sort of thing floats your boat, pass under the footbridge right to reach the campsite. If not, wild camping at Stoneham lock is only two miles away
8.5 miles – Sluice weir lock left. Sluice gates and weir middle. Canoe shoot and fish ladder right.
Click here for a video clip of shooting the canoe pass
9 miles – Branbridges. Road bridge
9.25 miles – A228 bridge
9.3 miles – conveyor belt bridge
9.5 miles – Railway bridge
10 miles – Stoneham old lock (disused). Camping. No facilities.
10.75 miles – Yalding. Sluice and weir right. Take lock cut left.
Alternatively land right upstream of the booms, portage over the bank to river Teise, under Twyford bridge and down to Marlin canoe club campsite (booking needed).
Footbridge over lock cut (Hampstead lane canal). Anchor inn left
11.5 miles – Hampstead bridge and Hampstead lock
Hampstead marina right below the lock
11.75 miles – rejoin main channel
13.5 miles – Bow bridge. Wateringbury
15 miles – Teston lock. Weir right. Canoe shoot left. Beware – in two section.
15.1 miles – Teston bridge. Reader’s cricket balls were made in Teston for 200 years
Teston bridge county park left. Access and parking.
16 miles – Barming bridge. Site of old ford. Camping is allowed on the right bank just before the bridge
17 miles – East Farleigh bridge
Farleigh lock. No canoe shoot. But easy portage.
18.5 miles – Tovil footbridge. Access right below.
19 miles – Millennium footbridge. The upstream one.
19.5 miles – Maidstone bridge
19.6 miles Maidstone New bridge
20 miles – Rail bridge
20.5 miles – Maidstone millenium footbridge. The second millenium bridge in Maidstone.
22 miles – Allington lock (tidal limit). Malt Inn right. Slipway left.
Overlooking the river Weser
This beautiful little cemetery, between the road and the river, enhanced my evening walk.
The expensively carved marble gravestones tell the story of Germany’s prosperous and stable recent past. Post war couples reach a good age, the man dies, and after a longish widowhood his wife goes too. No children have joined them yet.
Only one child grave, and only a couple of husbands outliving their wives.
Jim Thornton May 2014